GRUYERE: MORE THAN CHEESE

October 19, 2010 in SWITZERLAND | Comments (2)

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5 October

A favourite excursion from other alpine resorts, the little fortified town of Gruyères perches on a hill surrounded by the alps. We drove there through burnished mountain woodlands along a winding road. Past a door in a cliff, where they used to store the Gruyere cheeses – the cheeses are of course named after the town.

It is ridiculously pretty, this little walled town full of hanging signs, quaint old houses and colourful flowers. And so – naturally – full of visitors and curios. I tried snapping a few shots of the fountain in the cobbled square, but always someone walked half in or half out my frame.

We sauntered further to the castle, which is encircled by a narrow path; as we circumnavigated, peace reigned, while autumn blazed warmly. This castle dates back to the 1400s when the counts of Gruyères had their heyday as a military power. It was also a place where lords and ladies of other alpine castles met for jousting, feasting and hunting of wild boar. There is a museum in the castle as well as two other museums in the town.

Down to the medieval church. Then on to the very Swiss sight – vines, sheep and castle on a hill, all in one shot.

When we returned to the square the sun came out and the people had gone. Must have been a tourist bus. A moment of delicious abandon – we sat on the verandah of a hotel and ordered raspberries with cream. If clotted cream is a fond memory from Cornwall it is eclipsed by Gruyeres cream. The spoon could stand up in it…


Gstaad Palace fairytale

October 17, 2010 in SWITZERLAND | Comments (2)

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GSTAAD PALACE

3 October – magic autumn summer

In the main street of Gstaad, with chalet style shops offering designer labels  and hotels blooming with colourful window boxes, it is not hard to work out where Gstaad Palace lies.

On top of a hill overlooking the town, its slender white towers rise up behind the trees like something from a fairy tale. And to continue the fairytale theme, after she meets her prince she checks in at the Penthouse suite. From the suite’s generous terrace the magical towers point up, within view of your Jacuzzi. And all around are tall mountains to create more magic.

Inside you have a chalet- style lounge or parlour, with fireplace adorned with stag horns, and traditionally decorated yet very elegant dining set. Each of the 3 bedrooms feels like a suite, and each different, with so much art deco flourish you could study them  all night – yet warm and harmonious in a mix of  luxury and alpine tradition.

Penthouse bedroom 2

Third bedroom – for the nanny 🙂

I was only a viewer, not a resident, shown around very kindly as the hotel was closed. Gstaad Palace opens only in winter and summer, keeping to times of high occupancy (65-85%). Note these are my pix – not taken by the hotel, and candid camera therefore…

As the bedrooms were empty I was given a viewing feast. The décor of the rooms is very special – I can only call it Gstaad Palace style – full of original charm, variety and detail. And the views in all of them are fit for a fairytale queen.

My choice until I win the lottery (or marry the king) might be a deluxe suite – in rosy florals – incredibly cosy and pretty without being twee. Great views from the balcony. My disappointment would be one of the newly decorated Junior suites – too brown.

 But it would be fine to have a Tower suite on the sixth or seventh floor (with two bedrooms). They made interesting use of the space inside the towers, with a round bathroom with Jacuzzi, and a round, private (ahem) smoking  nook leading off one of the bedrooms. Plus generous balconies and large living room with pleasant but quirky colours.

Tower suite with a round smoking “corner” in Palace tower

View from a Deluxe Double Room, showing the Olympic pool and tennis courts

The main restaurant was being totally renovated, which meant the public areas were topsy turvy with stored furniture and wood dust. The original intentions of a palace in medieval style were all the more evident in the accordingly austere atrium adorned with age-worn Swiss canton emblems in front of a colossal fire place that creates that après ski warmth in the winter.  

But the vistas were as magnificent as ever from the windows surrounding the half empty lounges. They brought in views of the garden, backed by tall green mountains dotted with pastures, and chalets.  The glaciers glittered on rugged rocky peaks between them.  In the winter of course this is all fairytale white.

Apart from the buffet restaurant under renovations, there is a rustic Swiss restaurant lined with wood  … an Italian restaurant under the chef of Il Pellicano, and a gourmet restaurant. The nightclub expands its dance space by lowering a wooden platform over the indoor pool.

A magnificent fireplace adorns the spa – very stylish and modern. Again the views distinguish the spa from a million other wellness facilities worldwide  – and a swim out pool where you can feast on snowy peaks from warm water. In summer the Olympic swimming pool is a feature, and tennis courts. Tennis weeks are among special events, along with jazz events and many others.

The Gstaad Palace was built in the 1913 and is family owned. Hence the appealing sense of individuality. I can imagine some minimalists would prefer a flash new design hotel without patterned carpets in the hallways. But then this Palace might win anyone over to lavish creation…


Rossiniere nature & 500 people

October 4, 2010 in SWITZERLAND | Comments (4)

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View from road past the church

Medieval church

Hotel de Ville with bell tower in background

The village, which has only 500 inhabitants, is friendly.  If you happen to meet someone on its steep and peaceful streets, Bonjour is the word. They are proud of their village, which has a number of old buildings with history. Top of the list of attractions is the Grand chalet renovated by the French artist Balthus (Count Balthazar). Then there is the medieval church dating back to 1316 and the clock tower. The tower looks charming – but was in fact a PRISON in the AUSTERE old days. The Hotel de Ville is another part of Rossiniere’s history, now a charming family hotel, renovated last year.

From Rossiniere you are a few stops on the Golden Pass panoramic train to Gstaad for the high life. The main activity here is walking – fabulous walks along the valley, round the lake, or high up among forest, pastures and cows. A 2-hour walk takes you to Château d’Oux, from where you can return on the Golden Pass train. On these alpine slopes wild life abounds. As the owner of small poodles, Libby my host experienced the scary side of that … her little toy poodle was attacked by a wild boar. The tiny dog had a huge wound, which fortunately healed.

Charming Girardet chalet on the slopes of Rossiniere

View from chalet